Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Seanad Bill 2020: Second Stage
I thank the Minister of State for his remarks and I thank everybody who has participated in this debate. It is important that this debate should have occurred. I do not have as heavy a heart as I had when I stood up to move the Bill. The reason is that I accept what the Minister of State has said, that he is committed to reform of the Seanad.
The fact that there was not unanimity on every point in the Seanad reform implementation group does not mean there was not agreement on the Bill that was produced. We had our differences and we expressed them. There was no provision for a minority report but the Bill that was put forward was put forward by a solid majority of the members who were present and it represents the common ground among them.
Statements have been made that the present panels are somehow not fit for purpose. I wish to remind the House of what they are and to ask the House what aspect of Irish life is not included. The cultural and educational includes, "the national language and culture, literature, art, education and such professional interests as may be defined by law". The agricultural panel includes, "agriculture and allied interests, and fisheries", which would include rural affairs, forestry, horticulture and rural tourism. There is the labour panel, "whether organised or unorganised" and there is the industrial and commercial panel, involving, "industry and commerce, including banking, finance, accountancy, engineering, and architecture". Last but not least is the administrative panel, which includes, "public administration and social services, including voluntary social activities". The whole voluntary sector is entitled to be included in that panel.